Bad news, energy drink addicts: There's little actual proof that Red Bull will "give you wings" or that Monster Energy is a "killer energy brew." The wildly popular beverages—they make up the fastest-growing portion of the drink industry—are, when it comes down to it, just "caffeine delivery systems," explains one expert. Others agree with him, the New York Times reports in an extensive look at the drinks. Sure, energy drinks claim to be "scientifically formulated" (Rockstar Energy) and sometimes include fancy-sounding ingredients or tons of vitamins, but their only truly proven element is caffeine. And you could get the same amount of that for much less money by just buying a NoDoz tablet or a cup of Starbucks coffee.
Experts have found those other ingredients, including B vitamins, offer little or even no established benefit to drinkers. Two of the much-touted ones that the Times zeros in on are glucuronolactone (related to glucose) and taurine. The former has barely been tested, save for two 40-year-old Japanese studies; a European regulatory group decided health claims about the latter weren't backed up by science. Convinced you do feel differently after downing a Red Bull? That's likely because you're ingesting the caffeine faster than you would if you were, say, sipping a coffee. The drinks are coming under increased scrutiny, including from the FDA, after reports of deaths linked to the high levels of caffeine. Click to read the Times' full report. (Read more energy drink stories.)